Ohio Gadfly Daily

  1. The Dispatch took a look at Fordham’s latest report – a pretty downbeat assessment of Ohio’s online schools. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/2/16)
  2. Speaking of online schools, Ohio’s largest such school was on Monday given a court-ordered deadline of 5:00 pm Tuesday to turn over student log-in information the state has requested in order to complete an attendance audit. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/1/16) The school did not meet that deadline and instead will submit the requested docs – and thousands more besides – on Friday. (Columbus Dispatch, 8/3/16) But lest you think from that Dispatch piece that this was a one-sided process, here is Gongwer to disabuse you. In fact, the impending Friday info-dump was agreed to by both the school and the state, as was the notion of the state dropping its pending lawsuit against the school – the suit from which much of the current legal to-ing and fro-ing sprung. (Gongwer Ohio, 8/2/16)
  3. Lots of news from Youngstown since Monday. First up, editors at the Vindy opined very strongly in favor of the district CEO cutting off funding for the board’s legal efforts to invalidate the Academic Distress Commission and his own position.
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Many education stakeholders see the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as an opportunity to fix the most problematic provisions in NCLB. For many critics, the biggest bogeyman was too much standardized testing and its associated accountability measures. While ESSA maintains the annual testing requirements, it also offers new flexibilities. Among these is the opportunity to apply for the Innovative Assessment Pilot (IAP).

IAP is a provision that permits states to pilot an innovative assessment system in place of a statewide achievement test. “Innovative” is an umbrella term that covers a plethora of different testing options, including (but not limited to) competency-based, instructionally embedded, and performance-based assessments. Regardless of the assessment type chosen by a state, it must result in an annual, summative score for a student. Authority to participate in the pilot—known as “demonstration authority”—will be granted through an application process run by the secretary of education. No more than seven states will be allowed to participate in the pilot for a period of up to five years, with the option to apply for an additional two-year extension.[1]

Folks who are worried that states might use the pilot to weaken...

  1. We’ve already told you about the compliance portion of Ohio’s newest charter sponsor evaluation process. That flag requirement is always good for a laugh. But Chad is quoted seriously on the issue here and offers a cogent commentary: “By checking on everything, I think you make everything equally important,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the case.” Well said, boss. (Columbus Dispatch, 7/31/16)
  2. Our own Mike Petrilli is quoted on one aspect of the ESSA legislation. To wit: “It is totally up to states and districts what to do with low-performing schools.” Well said, boss. While this quote is several months old at this point, the topic is fresh as Ohio launches a series of statewide meetings and webinars on various aspects of ESSA accountability and what may or should change in the Buckeye State as a result. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/30/16)
  3. Last week’s one-month update with the Youngstown Schools CEO must have uncovered something that the Vindy hadn’t already known about: a pretty scathing report from the state regarding a litany of noncompliance and regulatory problems in the district’s transportation department. This piece reports the scale of the problems for the first time (ongoing
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  1. Youngstown Schools CEO Krish Mohip reminded them all who’s boss loudly and clearly yesterday in regards to the district’s pending lawsuit against the legislation that brought his position into being. That lawsuit has already cost the district nearly $200,000. Wonder what he’ll decide to do? (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/28/16) Today, at the one-month mark since taking the reins, Mohip says he’s optimistic for positive change in the district, starting from day one of the new school year. That’s intestinal fortitude for you. (Youngstown Vindicator, 7/29/16)
  2. Here is more on the topic of open enrollment in Coventry Local Schools. Following the State Auditor’s (!) report on the district’s finances, long-simmering concerns about open enrollment have started to heat up. By the time you get to the part where the superintendent says he “didn’t invent open enrollment”, you can see where this is heading. Nowhere is it noted that the district was in fiscal watch for a whopping 18 years before finally tipping into full-blown fiscal emergency and triggering the auditor’s report. If open enrollment was the whole problem, surely it would have wrecked the district’s finances long before now. It is to be hoped that students who have
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  1. Looks like Youngstown Schools CEO Krish Mohip will not be going home to Chicago this weekend. He has some high-profile visitors to entertain at East High School on Saturday. (WKBN-TV, Youngstown, 7/26/16) It remains to be seen whether CEO Mohip will have his legitimacy questioned by his guests. It is still most definitely under question by the Youngstown school board as they voted this week to continue their lawsuit against the legislation that created the CEO position in the first place. (WYTV-TV, Youngstown, 7/26/16) After this piece, I am left with two questions. First, didn’t the board president say at the last meeting that all their votes from then on would be “advisory” in nature and that the CEO would have final say in everything? And second, in that spirit, didn’t Mohip say last month that there would be no further board meetings until after members got training on Roberts Rules and civil discourse at their August retreat?
  2. A city-funded initiative to halt the brain drain in suburban Grove City has run into trouble. College tuition assistance for local graduates to continue their education at one of three higher-ed institutions in the city includes a religious
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In 2000, North Carolina’s university system (UNC) announced that it would increase from three to four the minimum number of high school math courses students must complete in order to be considered for admission. The intent was to increase the likelihood that applicants be truly college-ready, thereby increasing the likelihood of degree completion. Researchers from CALDER/AIR recently looked at the UNC data and connected it to K–12 student information to gain an interesting insight into how post-secondary efforts to raise the bar affect student course-taking behavior in high school.

The study posed three questions: Did the tougher college admission requirement increase the number of math courses taken by high school students (North Carolina’s high school graduation requirements remained at three math courses, despite UNC’s higher bar for admissions)?[1] Did it alter enrollment patterns at UNC schools? And did the hoped-for increase in college readiness and completion result?

Overall, high school students did take more math courses after the UNC policy change. As researchers expected, the biggest increases were at the middle- and lower-achievement deciles—high-achievers were already taking more than three courses—but the increases were not uniform across districts. This led researchers to look deeper into...

This report from Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates provides a trove of data on students experiencing homelessness—a dramatically underreported and underserved demographic—and makes policy recommendations (some more actionable than others) to help states, schools, and communities better serve students facing this disruptive life event. 

To glean the information, researchers conducted surveys of homeless youth and homeless liaisons (school staff funded by the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act who have the most in-depth knowledge regarding students facing homelessness), as well as telephone focus groups and in-depth interviews with homeless youth around the country. The findings are sobering.

  • In 2013–14, 1.3 million students experienced homelessness—a 100 percent increase from 2006–07. The figure is still likely understated given the stigma associated with self-reporting and the highly fluid nature of homelessness. Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, homelessness includes not just living “on the streets” but also residing with other families, living out of a motel or shelter, and facing imminent loss of housing (eviction) without resources to obtain other permanent housing. Almost seven in ten formerly homeless youth reported feeling uncomfortable talking with school staff about their housing situation. Homeless students often don’t describe themselves as such and are
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The new education law of the land—the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—has been the talk of the town since President Obama signed it into law in December 2015. Under the new law, testing doesn’t initially seem that different from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) days: ESSA retains the requirement that states administer annual assessments in grades 3–8 and once in high school; requires that test results remain a prominent part of new state accountability plans; and continues to expect states to identify and intervene in struggling schools based upon assessment results. But a closer look reveals that ESSA provides a few key flexibilities to states and districts—and opens the door for some pretty significant choices. Let’s take a look at the biggest choices that Ohio will have to make and the benefits and drawbacks of each option. 

Test design

There are two key decisions for states in terms of test design. The first is related to high school testing. ESSA permits districts to use “a locally selected assessment in lieu of the state-designed academic assessment” as long as it’s a “nationally recognized high school academic assessment.” In other words, Ohio districts could forego a...

We at Fordham recently released an evaluation on Ohio’s largest voucher initiative—the EdChoice Scholarship. The study provides a much deeper understanding of the program and, in our view, should prompt discussion about ways to improve policy and practice. But this evaluation also means that EdChoice is an outlier among the Buckeye State’s slew of education reforms: Unlike the others, it has faced research scrutiny. That should change, and below I offer a few ideas about how education leaders can better support high-quality evaluations of education reforms.

In recent years, Ohio has implemented policies that include the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, rigorous teacher evaluations, the Cleveland Plan, the Straight A Fund, New Learning Standards, and interventions in low-performing schools. Districts and schools are pursuing reform, too, whether changing textbooks, adopting blended learning, and implementing professional development. Millions of dollars have been poured into these initiatives, which aim to boost student outcomes.

But very little is known about how these initiatives are impacting student learning. To my knowledge, the only major state-level reforms that have undergone a rigorous evaluation in Ohio are charter schools, STEM schools, and the EdChoice and Cleveland voucher programs. To be certain, researchers...

Rabbi Eric "Yitz" Frank

This blog was originally posted on Education Next on July 24, 2016.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute recently released a study on the academic impact of Ohio’s flagship school choice program authored by noted researcher Dr. David Figlio of Northwestern University. The report is noteworthy for its principal findings, namely that, not only is the sky not falling for impacted public schools, the EdChoice program has had a positive impact on the academic performance of public schools whose students are eligible for a scholarship. Surprisingly, the study also found that the students using scholarships to attend private schools who the report studied (more on that later) did not perform as well as their public school peers on the state test.

Matt Barnum of The 74 wrote an article that details some of the possible explanations for the latter finding. Based on my own experience in Ohio, I can attest that many nonpublic schools do not align their curriculum to the state test, nor do they focus much on these measures, and that is likely an important factor. However, it is important to note what the study could not address. As Dr. Figlio made clear in both his...